“Pretend you’re not in Frick, but that you’re walking down a beach in Southern California, watching the waves. Hold that image for three seconds. Now go to it. Go Princeton!”
Those were the final instructions of Miles Pickering before the start of the Princeton-Yale Titration Contest in December 1978. Contestants were given a sample of a chemical compound, mixed with an inert substance, and asked to determine the concentration of the mixture. The team with the most students scoring in Pickering’s “golden circle” — within one percentage point of the actual concentration — would be the winner.
Pickering, a Yale alumnus, Princeton lab instructor, and in PAW’s words, “the Abner Doubleday of intercollegiate titration,” initiated the contest in 1977. Yale won, and a summary of the project later earned a place in the Journal of Chemistry Education.
In 1978, Yale again proved more proficient in a closely contested rematch: 51 percent of its team finished in the golden circle, compared to 49 percent for the titrating Tigers.